I have an idea for a place called CinnaMom Rolls Café. The name is clever and catchy combining two highly valued commodities: mom and delicious food. But I don’t suspect it’d be very lucrative since it’d only be open on Christmas morning. And only for about an hour. And only for patrons wearing flannel pajamas who have bedhead hair and sleepy eyes.
That’s the way it’s been at my place since 1989 when I pulled my first pan of Christmas morning cinnamon rolls out of the oven, made from a recipe in my mom’s Betty Crocker cookbook. I was a new mom wanting to do something sweet for my little family, and what’s sweeter than warm, gooey cinnamon rolls dripping with powdered sugar icing?
My mom made Christmas morning cinnamon rolls once or twice in my youth, though I always wished she’d done it every year. But she had traditions of her own, like the homemade divinity and fudge that she cooled on wax paper before putting them in holiday tins. I don’t much like divinity but I’d give anything for a piece of her swirled confection candy today. (I wonder if heaven has a kitchen.)
She used the same recipes year after year. I do not. I attempted to, but one Christmas we were at my sister’s house and my cookbook was miles away and the internet was years away. Instead, I resorted to using a recipe from a magazine she had on hand, along with some Crisco we hadn’t realized had expired until it was already clumping up the mix. I don’t think anyone had seconds that year, but the tradition of making the rolls went unbroken.
Another year a close friend raved about her husband’s recipe, so I thought, why not? And it was worth the risk. They were delicious enough to share in my daughter’s elementary school cookbook the next year, with permission of course.
I used that recipe until we moved from Texas to the mountains a dozen years ago; I couldn’t get it to work quite right in the high altitude. A Colorado native shared his family recipe and my family enjoyed those batches several years in a row. Then I met someone with a bread machine and a new recipe. I swear these latest rolls taste like they’re made in heaven.
Regardless of the recipe, the timing has remained the same. Not long after Santa leaves in the wee hours of the morning, I wake up and prepare the dough. While it rises, I sit wrapped-up in a quilt in the living room enchanted by the twinkling tree lights. I count my blessings among the countless presents skirting the tree that are marked To and From with the names of loved ones.
My lovies awaken in a few hours to the aroma of the rolls, as well as to the prodding of the youngest who cannot wait another minute to open presents. Midway through the ripping of paper and expressions of surprise, we take a break and head to the kitchen.
In the blink of an eye, CinnaMom Rolls Café is open. With the first bites of warm, gooey rolls, memories of all the previous Christmas gatherings swirl and blend into one precious moment. I can almost see the faces and hear the laughter of the family and friends who have partaken of this tradition with us over the past three decades.
An hour passes and my satisfied customers return to the living room, thankful for loose-fitting jammies. I shut down my café after another successful year and join them, reminded again of how sweet life is.
See you next year at CinnaMom Rolls Café.